My Gymnastics Mushroom

originally posted at

I got my mushroom today, and I love it. It’s been 7 years since my last gymnastics competition (as a collegiate gymnast at ASU, see for a look at that program). I got one from Amazon, similar to the one in the picture.
It may take a little while for my wrists to get used to the pressure again, but I am very happy about it – it feels good to move. The kids were all excited too, but it may be awhile before they make it all the way around:)

Nov 1st Update: My coach from college (Scott Barclay) saw this post and suggested I compete in the next Rocky Mountain Open on Pommel Horse. That is mainly a collegiate competition that is open for anyone to compete. This coming January is a bit soon for that since we just moved across the country, but I’m thinking that in January 2010 I can plan for it. I figure if I get back in shape physically and get a good circle, I’ll be able to do one of my old routines once I get there. We have a park nearby with bars I can swing on with my kids to build up some callouses again, so I expect to be able to do it:)

Nov 22nd Update: I learned after about a week that if I didn’t warm up sufficiently, my wrists would hurt too much to do any circles (or at least enjoyably). So after a week off to let my wrists recover I started doing some pullups on my chinning bar, dips on my kids’ monkey bars, leg raises, and a type of yoga that I can’t remember the name of – just to get warmed up so I could do some circles. Today (after warming up) I did two sets of 20 circles and just about passed out.

I remember observing one of my teammates who was very good at pommel horse but he didn’t have huge muscles. At the time I reasoned that pommel horse doesn’t take much strength based on that observation, but we were little kids back then – now I know that it does take some strength, even for pommel horse:)

Dec 10th Update: I did 30 circles in a row yesterday. I think I’ll take the top off and put it on the floor once I can do 50 circles easily in the elevated configuration. I figure I’ll be in good shape when I can do 75 circles with the top on the floor. I remember having a “50 circle club” and a “75 circle club” in college, and I was the only one in the “75 circle club”. Of course that was circles on the pommel horse, not a mushroom – that’s why I want to put the top on the floor, to more closely replicate the circle I’ll need on the horse.

Dec 13th Update: I did 40 circles today, but after 35 I was barely making it around. I’ll need to pick up speed before I take off the top and put it on the floor 🙂

Dec 16th Update: I was feeling good last night and did 45 circles after a short warm up. I’m hoping I’ll get to 50 this week, and then I’ll see how many I can do with the top on the floor.

Dec 18th Update: I made it to 50! I was really pushing it after about 40, but determination wins over weakness:) I’ll take the top off when I try it next.

Dec 23rd Update: I took the top off and tried doing circles with the top on the floor. After about five tries I was able to do six in a row, while Demitri and Eden took turns rolling each other around in the base.

Dec 25th Update: Yesterday I made it to 15 circles with the top on the floor, but when I tried to stop I was going too fast and hurt my pinky toe pretty bad (it turned purple). Based on my previous experiences with twisted ankles, I tried soaking my toes in warm salt water for 15 minutes. That helped a little bit, but it still hurt too bad to put my shoe on and walk on it. So later I made a healing paste (made from turmeric and salt, see link above for more details) and covered my toe with it. I was happy when I awoke this morning at 3:30 to assemble Christmas gifts and it was starting to feel a bit better. By the time I went back to bed at 6am I was walking on it without problems, and later when I got up to see the kids open gifts it felt good enough to walk around in my shoes again. It has continued to feel better all day, even when I spent some time raking leaves outside. I am very impressed, since I hurt that same toe on the trampoline when I was about 10 years old and it was several days before it really felt better then (I think all I did back then was ice it).

Jan 7th 2009 Update: I was feeling good this morning and decided to do some mushroom circles again. After warming up with a set of dips and some jumping on the mini tramp I bought Candice for Christmas I cleared some space (amidst the toys that have filled the basement since Christmas) and made it to 20 with the top on the floor. I had a few false starts before I decided to focus on my extension, that made a big difference – circles on the floor are not possible (at least not more than a few) without good extension. I hear a baby awake, time to make lunch:)

March 1st 2009 Update: Yesterday I warmed up with some jumping on our mini-tramp and playing with the kids, then I cleared a space and did 26 circles before slipping on part of a rug that flipped up over the mushroom top. I had intended to do 30, but I guess I was going fast enough to pull up the end of a rug (it’s rather thin) and slipped on it. Next time I’ll make sure I clear out the rugs as well as the toys.

Oct 25th, 2009 Update: We moved twice since the last update, and now we are living back in Phoenix, within driving distance of Aspire, where the current 20+ member ASU men’s team practices. Scott let me come and play on the equipment a bit recently (during open gym) with a couple of my kids, and we had a great time. I was inspired to get my body in shape so I could do more when I go next time. So this past week, after about 7 months “off”, I got back on the mushroom again (after warming up sufficiently), and did ten circles. I figured I could do that everyday, so I planned on increasing the number of circles by 5 everyday.

By the third day I began slipping off the mushroom (I was trying to do 20 at this point), and since my hands were sweaty I tried putting baby powder on them (I don’t have chalk, but we’ve had baby powder on hand at my house for the last 7 years). This dried my hands (and made them smell pretty good too!) but it actually made it harder to stay on, not easier. I guess baby powder helps baby butts get smooth, not just dry. 🙂

However, I was determined to do my 20 circles so I reasoned that if I keep my balance well enough in my circles and maintain tight form, I should be able to do as many circles as I want. So I focused on staying tight and level in my swing and was able to do 20. I had the idea this week to challenge the current ASU team to a circle contest (on the pommel horse, not the mushroom), so I am working towards that goal now.

Nov 21st 2009 Update: I got up to 74 circles on my mushroom early this week and subsequently planned to be at the team practice on Saturday for a circle contest. I learned that I could stop slipping off the mushroom by washing my hands and drying them beforehand. Today was the circle contest, my first time on a pommel horse in probably 5 years. Add me as a friend on facebook to see a video of my circles on the horse. I only made it to 46 on the horse, but I had a great time getting the team psyched up. Now I will take of the top off my mushroom and do circles with it directly on the floor. I plan to go back to the gym for a rematch once I can do 75 with the top on the floor, in a few weeks.

Dec 11th 2009 Update: I got up to 41 circles with the mushroom top on the floor early this week and then I realized that even from the beginning I was bending my legs in the back to keep from scraping the ground with my toes. I realized that my wrists need to be more flexible for me to be able to keep my legs straight and extended fully. So I will take my own advice and spend more time stretching than doing circles for the next few weeks. I hope to get to 75 with the top on the floor within a month or so, but I want to do circles with good form.

About Robert

I competed in gymnastics for 16 years through college at Arizona State University. After 10 years and 5 (now 6) children, I have returned to gymnastics as a competitor. I am a lifetime gymnast. :)
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